Black-Owned Businesses to Support

I was contacted during the week to ask if I would help promote some black-owned businesses, as they tend to have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic (among other things).

Of course, I thought this sounded like a great idea!

The specific link I was directed to lists 181 businesses in the United States, as well as a bunch in Canada (at the bottom).

Which prompted me to check and see what there is in the UK.

To that end, I found a directory here, and a different list here.

If you would like to promote a black-owned business here or elsewhere in the world, please leave a comment below!


Last week, I wrote the acknowledgements of my debut novel (Still can’t quite believe I get to say that!). And with so many people to thank, I wanted to share all my gratitude here as well as at the back of the book, because everybody should know how awesome everyone who helped me is!

I first started [Full Term] on the 22nd of May 2016. By the time it finally goes into print (30th March 2021), it will be just under two months shy of being five years old, from first word to publication. So much has happened in that time, and so many people have helped that I’m both thrilled and terrified that now, at this very last hurdle, I’m going to forget to thank someone. Just in case, I ask forgiveness in advance if you feel your name should be below, but you find it missing. Please know this was not intentional. There’s a saying about it taking a village to raise a child, and I feel like it’s taken an entire online community to bring forth this book.

But enough preamble. Let me first start with my editor, the wonderful and ever patient Bridget Wilde. I know it’s cliché, but I honestly could not have gotten this book into print without her. This book is very literally a different book than the one I handed to her, but it’s so much better for all the rewrites. Be, honestly, thank you so much!

Next, I must thank Be’s partner in crime, Anna Sheehan, who not only beta-read considerable parts of this book (and a few of its previous iterations), but contributed a large portion of the IndieGoGo funding, and provided the lovely quote for the cover as well. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you, but if I ever find out, I’ll let you know!

I have spent countless nights being encouraged by both Bridget and Anna––often both at the same time––throughout this long process. Thank you both for listening to all my 5am meltdowns.

Going back over ten years to my university days, I want to thank my original critique partner, Mickey Luke Mitchell. I also want to apologise for the things I made you read back then, when I was very much still finding my feet.

Similarly, the dear Liz Griffin who read a lot of my old work, before I quite got the grip on grammar and punctuation I have now. Thank you, and sorry for all the typos I brought into your life.

Speaking of typos, my good friend Jodie Eve, in her innocence, used to get me to beta-read her work. Many, many hours were spent moving around commas that I’m still not quite sure are entirely right, but you believed I knew what I was doing and for that I am so grateful.

I’m proud to have also been buoyed by support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast Writers’ Group, Women Aloud NI, SCBWI (both British Isles and Irish chapters), countless Elysian Fields members (you know who you are!), my lone Patreon patron Seanín Hughes, beta readers Tina ‘Mini’ Scott and Vee Caswell (who both also contributed to my crowdfunding campaign), critique partner Lesley Walsh, life partner and perpetual lemon toasty of the month (don’t ask!) my wonderful husband Steve Herron, and writing mentors Felicity McCall and Jo Zebedee.

My darling Stephanie Hibbert did an excellent sensitivity read of this novel for me (i.e. answered all of my ignorant white people questions), and I got expert advice from Cathy Carson, Alicia Rana, and Dr Joanne Holland DVM MD about safeguarding, nursing, social work protocols, and midwifery respectively. Any errors that may have slipped in regarding any of these topics are my own doing, not theirs.

Shout out to Wendy L. Bonifazi RN CLS APR, who kindly proofread this novel for me, and of course the rest of my awesome IndieGoGo Backers: Debi Lamm, Cat Pothier, Liz Weir, Byddi Lee, Shirley-Anne McMillan, Beth Armstrong, Karen Mooney, Mark Davidson, Ryan Miller, Marianne Simpson, Cathy Reilly, Kay Adlington, Elizabeth McGeown, Emma King*, Lynda Collins, Anthony Calamis, Wilma Kenny, Kelly Creighton, and my cousin (and fellow author) Kim Graham.

The puddle/ocean advice that Lynne gives Mya in chapter five, I picked up from Tumblr many years ago and have never forgotten (though sadly I haven’t the faintest idea who shared it originally––told you I’d forget someone!).

Just thank you, thank you, thank you all so very much!

*Since I wrote this and sent the book to print, Emma King earned herself another shout out for donating hours of her time to helping me with a fiddly photoshop task to do with the paperback cover. Even at this stage, I’m finding it staggering how much people are willing to give to make sure this book succeeds.

*UPDATE* I just realised I have been completely remiss in thanking my super wonderful, completely excellent web developer Will Hall! Will, I am so sorry. If/when I make a second edition of the book, your name will be included properly. You are awesome!

Full Term is available for pre-order here.

Malorie Blackman

A feature on my favourite author.

World Book Day 2003, at age 14, I picked up my very first Malorie Blackman book. It was An Eye for An Eye, a short story from Malorie’s Noughts and Crosses Series.

I had not read Noughts and Crosses at that point. I hadn’t actually heard of it or Malorie herself before. In fact, that day in Easons bookstore in Bloomfields Bangor, I wanted to pick up an entirely different book.

I’ve said before that, prior to going to university, I was not really a reader. I likely would have been, because I was in love with the idea of books, but it was not encouraged.

That day in the bookstore, I had picked up a novel I wanted to use my £1 book token towards but my parents refused to buy it. They would not add money to my token, so if I wanted to use it, I had to pick one of the £1 short reads produced specifically for the day.

A somewhat unlikely beginning, but I got that short story, read it, and loved it. And when I finally had a little freedom and some of my own money, I walked into Waterstones in Lincoln, aged 18, and came out with my very own copy of Noughts and Crosses.

The short story had stayed with me that long. My curiosity about the rest of the series had been piqued for four years. And so, not long after I devoured book one, I worked my way through the rest. At that point, Knife Edge and Check Mate (books two and three) were out and Double Cross (book four) was in the pipeline. I was one of the first people to preorder it, and I actually have a clear memory of the day I picked it up. Continue reading

10 Writers I Look Up To

It seems to me that, in most cases, the people we admire and aim to emulate often have no idea how well they’re thought of. Particularly, I think it’s true of women. We often don’t know our worth, and how would we when no one really talks about their inspirations?

I’m here to change that. Because I know that, on the occasions people have given me encouragement and/or praise, it makes a world of difference. It matters because those people you think are so great have just as much imposter syndrome as the rest of us. Sometimes more, if they’re successful.

It can be easy to think that there’s no need to tell someone with awards coming out their ears how their work impacted you – because surely they should already know, and doesn’t it go without saying?

Dear reader, say it. Always tell your heroes how you feel, just in case they’re not feeling so heroic.

I’ve been thinking some more about the specific people I really respect in terms of writing. This is in addition to Colin Dardis and Anna Sheehan, who I have previously recommended on this blog, and in a similar vein to a post I wrote for ‘Women Writers, Women’s Books’ a long time ago.

My list is as follows:

Jen Campbell

I found Jen through her YouTube channel and have been falling in love with her words ever since as she continues to bring out wonderful book after wonderful book – short stories, bookish non-fiction, poetry, and children’s books.

Malorie Blackman

When I started to read as an adult, Malorie’s books were the first I picked up. No matter than most of her writing is targetted at under eighteens. I actually have a picture book by her that I tresure.

Claire Savage

Claire impresses me on multiple fronts as she turns her hand to poetry, copywriting, journalism, and books for children and is fantastic at all of them.

Continue reading

A Women Aloud NI Appreciation Post

I’m nearing the end of my series of posts about the John Hewitt International Summer School but, before I truly give it rest, it would be remiss of me not to give a special shout-out to the members of Women Aloud NI I spent my week with.

Of course there were fantastic people in attendance not of our number and yes I’d met many of my fellow WANI women before, but getting to know these particular women better was a real highlight for me.

I’m not a particularly social person, usually liking to keep my own company and spend my time behind either books or computer screens, but the company and conversations during my time in Armagh were really precious to me; maybe more-so because I’m naturally introverted but mostly, I think, because these women are brilliant – both individually and as a group.

I’m nervous to list them lest I accidentally leave anyone out but, really, they deserve their own individual praise. So, thank you Gaynor, Angeline, Karen, Byddi, Annie, Trish, Sarah, Jo, and Yvonne for being part of such a short but valuable time in my life. I trust it was just as good for you.

People Worth Promoting: Anna Sheehan

anna sheehanThe good people of Tumblr have declared today – August 21st – Fan Fiction Writers Appreciation Day, making this the perfect opportunity for me to put up part two of my People Worth Promoting series.

I want to talk to you about Anna Sheehan, a wonderful author (not to mention a wonderful person in general, and a great friend), who I met through writing fan fiction.

Anna has written a metric-shit-ton (actual measurement) of beautiful, twisted, character-driven words set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe. Not only that, but she’s had three of her own original novels published, too. I’ve read the first one (A Long, Long Sleep – loved it!), and am about to start the most recent (Spinning Thorns – can’t wait!).

She’s so talented, and I can’t recommend her highly enough. So, if you love Buffy fanfiction, check out her stories here. And if you love Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, check out her novels here. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

People Worth Promoting: Colin Dardis

People Worth Promoting 1I’ve taken this idea from Jan Carson (another one to watch), but what I’d like to do is use this little space on the internet to promote awesome people who, I think, deserve recognition (or more recognition). And who better to start with than a man very much at the heart of the Belfast Arts Scene: Colin Dardis?

In my own head, I consider Colin to be ‘Poetry NI incarnate‘ – a term he will no doubt appreciate (I hope?).

I first met Colin when I, as an inexperienced young thing, entered myself into a poetry slam he was organizing. After pestering him with banal questions about how it all worked, he still let me take the mic. which, secretly, I think was quite brave of him. I was very clueless, and nervous, and boy did it show. But Colin (pretending not to notice) was very nice to treat me like a real performer.

Many months after that, he agreed to be my guinea pig, letting me interview him in a trial run for what would become my radio show about the local arts scene. It was even Colin who introduced me to, setting me on my self-publishing journey.

Always with his fingers in many pies, Colin really inspires me to get involved with cool projects. If you haven’t already heard of him, please go check him (/his poems) out.